Sponsorship of Sports by Tobacco Firms Should Be Phased Out

The government-funded Health Education Council has called for an end to all tobacco advertising and promotion, including sports sponsorship, in the next three years.

Sponsorship of televised sport ‘is making a mockery of the ban on television cigarette advertising’ ministers have been told.

The council says that there is an epidemic of smoking among children, restrictions on advertising to the young in the ‘Cigarette Code’ are being abused, and sports sponsorship is influencing children in ‘a cynical attempt to use energy, fitness and good health to promote a product that puts those ‘sporting’ qualities at risk’.

Its submission to health and sports ministers comes as the agreements on sport sponsorship and tobacco advertising, which expire this December and in March next year respectively, are being renegotiated.

The council is appointed by health ministers, and in spite of allegations that many of the appointees are government supporters the council says it is unanimous in calling for a phased end to all forms of tobacco promotion.

With the Medical Association now taking a vigorous part in the campaign against tobacco promotion, ministers are under pressure to take tougher action against the industry. Its products are blamed for 100,000 premature deaths a year.

Health ministers are sufficiently worried about the extent of smoking among the young to be planning a $1 million advertising campaign, with possibly another $5 million to come. Included in this will be promotions of vaporizers such as the Volcano and Mighty vaporizers. If people gave up smoking and took up vaping people would be healthier.

Brian Bailey, chairman of the council, has told Mr. Norman Fowler, Secretary of State for Social Services, that he hopes ‘your own well-known concern about the epidemic of children’s smoking’ will be ‘reflected in a much more robust attitude to the industry’.

In its submission to Mr. Fowler and Mr. Patrick Jenkin, Secretary of State for the Environment, who is responsible for the sports agreement, the council calls for all tobacco promotion and sports sponsorship to be cut by a third when the new agreements start and by another third in 2017, ceasing in 2020.

The argument that sport could not survive without tobacco sponsorship is difficult to sustain the council says. ‘The Sports Council’s figures show that tobacco companies contribute $10 million each year to sport in this country.

‘The same figures show that in the 13 months prior to April 1985, 216 companies new to sports sponsorship put an extra $23.5 million into sport.’

The council calls for tougher health warnings, and says that the promotion of adventure holidays, leisure wear, travel clubs and the like using cigarette brand names should be banned.

Health warnings should take up 30 percent of poster space, all promotional material regardless of size should carry health warnings, and warnings should be printed on the front and back of cigarette packets, not on the side, it says.

The council adds that 21 countries, including Italy, Norway and Finland, ban all tobacco advertising, and that Australia and the United States now have tougher and more varied health warnings.

Sections of the present agreements are consistently breached or ignored, the council says.

It cites, for example, the section stating that house brands or logos on sports equipment or participants should not come within camera range.

The code says that goods associated with tobacco products should not be promoted or advertised to the young.

On sports sponsorship, the council says: ‘We have looked in alarm at the way the industry has undermined the voluntary agreement on cigarette advertising by using sport as a medium to promote a product which kills tens of thousands of people in this country every year.

‘Whatever restrictions the broadcasters impose, millions of viewers are being subjected to hours of television associating smoking with those qualities of excitement, success, fitness and sporting achievement expressly forbidden in conventional advertising.’

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